Nov 29, 2011
Christian Ward

5 ways to cope with depersonalization

A drawing representing depersonalization

1. Repeat your ‘safe mantra’
When I felt the feeling of being ‘spaced out’ coming on strong (that was how I described my depersonalization to other people), I would start to repeat a few words to myself that I came to refer to as my ‘safe mantra’. It would be a variation on: “everything’s alright, you’re not going to pass out, no one ever died from depersonalization.” Repeating reassuring words to myself would help in overcoming the initial feeling and prevent it from turning into a panic attack.

2. Breathe
This is a common piece of advice, but it can really help. Breathe in and out slowly and with deliberation, concentrating on how your body reacts as you do so. You’ll find this helps to distract yourself and calm yourself down a bit.

3. Distract yourself
I’ve talked before about the slap around the face – and silly as it sounds, it really worked for me. Another thing I would do would be to shake my head, or shout out loud – anything that makes you feel more alive, even a bit foolish. It doesn’t matter what you feel as long as it takes you away, momentarily, from feeling depersonalized.

4. Make yourself feel purposeful
This is especially true if you are out and about and start to feel the condition coming on. Keep your head up (mine would always drop as staring at the ground was much easier to deal with than trying to deal with crowds of people or cars going by), walk on and concentrate on the destination you want to reach. Repeat your safe mantra and stride with a sense of purpose, as if you are a high flying business person about to close a major deal – this feeling of being purposeful and in control is a great way of diminishing the affects of the syndrome.

5. Keep things familiar
Don’t stray from a route you know, don’t try and do too much at once, and don’t take on responsibilities that will cause you anxiety. Basically, don’t do anything that will cause you more stress. If you’re out and about, make your way to an area that you know well, and find a safe place to stop and calm down. If you’re at a party, find someone you know and trust and sit with them for a bit. If you’re at work, take a break (but ensure you’re sufficiently distracted – have a cigarette, or chat with a trusted colleague, or do something simple that will occupy your time and keep your mind off the condition).

All of the above steps are, at their core, about distraction, which I’ve always felt is one of the the key ways of dealing – in the short term – with depersonalization and other anxiety disorders.

2 Comments

  • Very effective strategies.I loved reading this.This is a very scary feeling and I think the key is to tell yourself that you are strong and can fight these scary thoughts.Trying to be in the present really helps and replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts really helps.

  • I’ve just experienced my first episode, so to speak, of this and reading your articles has been helpful already. I’m hoping that just trying to get grounded will help me get out of this but it’s really helpful to read this. It feels like validation, I think that’s important right now.

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